Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Huff and puff; story of three little Iittle (and not so little) Florida wild hogs

PALM BAY, FLORIDA - This is the story of the three little pigs.

Only one was little, though. She was the second Florida wild hog of the day I shot just before Christmas. Mottled brown and white, the pig came strolling toward the feeder while the pay--for-hire guide Matt Cates and I were wrapping things up.

Yep, right there in amongst us, not more than few paces away, oblivious to us and equally unconcerned with the jet-black medium-size Florida hog laying prostate at the edge of where the electronic feeder pitches the corn. That dead sow of a hog - and I think the smaller mottled-colored pig now here - were part of a three-pig sounder that wasted no time in leaving the confines of a thick palmetto forest for the more open field where they were assured a breakfast of corn kernels.

I had settled in the new blind; a curiously ingenious affair. Made from eight-foot sections of wooden privacy fence, the blind was a perfect square with shooting portholes made by cutting two of the fence "sticks" from the section's middle support crossbeam to the section's upper cross member.

The sections were anchored by four-by-four posts cemented into the ground. For a roof Matt had laid sections of corrugated sheet metal.

Such a blind wouldn't stand up to a Florida hurricane, of course, but then again, nothing short of a cinder-block building can bluff its way past 75-plus miles-per-hour winds

Anyway, the blind was plenty comfortable enough and with it containing not one - but two - camp folding chairs plus a small plastic chair/table I had all the fixtures I needed to spread out my hog-hunting truck.

And that's a lot, as it is for virtually all forms of hunting and fishing that I do. It all goes back to the old saying "better to have something and not need it than to need it and not have it." So I usually fill up a backpack with all sorts of hunting-related paraphernalia and such materiel as I believe would be necessary.

Including 20 rounds of .45-70 Springfield ammunition, equally divided between Hornady LeverRevolution and Remington's stock Core-Lockt.

When I didn't shoot a deer during Ohio's recently concluded  firearms deer-hunting season with my newly acquired H&R Buffalo Classic rifle I figured it would prove bad medicine on Florida's amply healthy wild hog population.

Yeah, a .45-70 is overkill for a species that seldom exceeds 150 pounds in the wild. Though if you read much in today's sporting journals you'd get the impression that your best bet is to hunt hogs with a howitzer with a .500 Smith and Wesson as a backup.

That kind of talk is little more than sales pitches made by outdoors writers who've either not hunted Florida wild pigs much or else were writing after they had gone on a sponsored hog hunt somewhere.

Truth be told, wild hogs (while still more than capable of ripping a nasty gouge in your leg) can be sent to the processor by utilizing cartridges and gauges suitable for game from coyotes-woodchucks to average-size deer. Or the kind of gun stuff that likely already occupies space in your gun cabinet.

Last time I was down here my father-in-law knocked off two hogs with nothing more than a venerable .25-20 Winchester. I've even killed hogs a smart distance with a semi-automatic pistil chambered for the .9mm Luger, though I think under the circumstances it would have been smarter had I employed something with a little more "umpf." Which is why I pack a version of a Model 1911 pistol in a shoulder holster and fed with the same load I use for home protection.

Truth Be Told Number II is my humble opinion that after hunting Florida wild hogs for gosh-I-can't-remember-how-long-now my belief is that the best hog killer is a rifled-barreled shotgun fitted with a low-powered scope (or ever open sights) and armed with the same stuff used to tank Ohio deer in early December.

Okay, we've gotten sort off track, I realize and for which I apologize. Just wanted you to understand the set-up and get the picture as painted by someone not beholding to a firearms or ammo company.

Anyway, the game feeder went off as expected a few minutes before 7 a.m. I guess maybe three or four minutes later the three-pig sounder came running out of the brush, their squiggly tails about as high as they could climb into the warm Florida morning.

I knew one of the pigs would be roasted by the .45-70, though I wasn't sure which one. You see the trio mostly wadded into a bunch so compact I couldn't tell heads from tails.

Only when the three hogs separated could I better gauge their size. That was when I discerned the medium-sized pig would be the first to go. The Remington Corelockt bullet neatly broke the pig's spine and the animal fell flat on its side and dead as a dead pig that just got whomped by an oversize hunk of lead can be.

The remaining two pigs returned to the sanctuary of the palmetto forest.

Since the whole affair took only a few minutes and I still had two hours before Matt was scheduled to pick me up, I sat and enjoyed the company of the morning. Hoping, of course, that another pig - at least equal in size and equal in hunger as the now-deceased sow 15 yards in front of me laid - would show up.

I heard the almost prehistoric calls of sandhill cranes, the "woosh" of a breeze that happily curled around the blind's slits-for-windows and the steady rap-tap of rain drops dropping from a quickly passing rain shower. None of which, by the way, disturb me to the point where a 45-minute morning nap would become unhinged.

For guests I saw a whole laundry list of song birds, several species of which were winter-time visitors to the Floridian savanna, having passed by one of my Ohio deer-hunting blinds only a few weeks earlier.

Anyway, the two hours were up and Matt came to fetch me and the black-colored sow wild hog.

That's when the little one trotted out, totally unconcerned about our presence and caring even less that a dead relation lay a few feet away.

I armed the .45-70 and shot this second hog, to make a long story story. But the act still grates on me.

If I had to do it all over again, I would not have taken that little piggy. Nope, I'd have walked in, shooed it away and let it sequel in disgust at how it had been denied a meal.

Yeah, I know it was a female and in a few months it would have been old enough to breed, producing more offspring that would go on to damage the farm's cattle-grazing pasture and all. I also know that of the three Florida wild hogs I shot those couple days before Christmas 2014 this smallest one would "eat the best," as Matt had said.

Likewise I know that what Matt and I witnessed was something we'll almost certainly never encounter again. That being, a wild hog of any size totally unafraid and absolutely determined to make the best of a free meal of corn just steps away from its executioner.

So I took a dumb one out of the gene pool, I get that, I really do. Still...

Oh, that's right, I almost forgot to let you in on the third harvested Florida wild hog. Not much really to say about this animal other than (again) to add that a whole bunch of what you see and read about hunting wild hogs is only so much hooey.

Matt and I reversed course, backing out on the sandy farming track screwed out of the palmettos. Up ahead yonder in some row of sedges fed a big black-bristly-haired brute of a wild hog. This animal's stern was to our bow so I had to wait as best I could for as best a shot I could make with the H&R. The rather heavy and long-barreled rifle was steadied on a tall and adjustable bipod as I waited for the right opportunity.

When the opportunity half-came I fired, the bullet cleaving a slice of hog ham with the animal humanely finished off at arm's length by what spews out of a Model 1911's considerable mouth.

This hog was much bigger than the other two, even combined. Matt estimated it weight at 160 to 170 pounds. Certainly not rare for a boar wild hog but still rather unusual for a sow. Which no doubt, had birthed more than a few litters of little piggies. 
Maybe even the small one that I shot but maybe shouldn't have.

Anyway, that's the end of the story of the three little pigs, only one of which was actually little.Next time I visit Florida to hunt hogs - perhaps as early as sometime this spring if I can coax some hunting buddies to join me and share the trip's expenses - I'm going to use my crossbow. Or maybe take one with a muzzle-loading rifle since I haven't done that before either.

But what I also will say is this: I think if push comes to shove and I have a little guy or gal piggy come out of some palmetto thicket I'll take a pass on the critter. In this case I really don't care how destructive wild hogs of any size can be nor how many (potential) other wild swine the sow will produce or the boar sires. Either way, the critter will get to live another day.

For information about hunting wild hogs (or alligators or turkeys or deer or exotic species) with Matt Cates and his Triple M Outfitters, contact him at 321-863-2985. I've always said that a Florida wild hog hunt is the country's least expensive big-game hunt. Presently, Matt charges $200 for the first hog and $100 for every subsequent hog; and you better plan on shooting at least two hogs.

Processing rates are also inexpensive when compared to what it takes to process a deer in Northeast Ohio.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

1 comment:

  1. We have plenty of hogs here in Florida. They really need to be harvested even the smaller tasty ones. Sounds like a great hunt. Next time down contact me Ill get you offshore fishing I'm in the Tampa area Jeff.